“Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.”
John Wooden

Friday, June 8, 2018

Book Reviews: Dream Like a Champion by John Cook

By Jon Johnston
December 12, 2017
The University of Nebraska Press sent me Dream Like a Champion: Wins, Losses, and Leadership the Nebraska Volleyball Way when it was first released in September 2017. I had planned to review it, but I put it on the shelf and then a lot of things happened this year and I forgot about it until about two weeks ago.
It's a good time for review. Nebraska volleyball is knee-deep in the NCAA volleyball tournament and is about to face their nemesis Penn State. Also, Christmas is coming and I know that your family already has everything that they want or need. You'd still like to get them present, and this book is a great option.
I typically read the books I'm reviewing instead of just writing a review off the media information that they send. I thought about being lazy with this one, but I started reading it. My first thought upon finishing is how honest John Cook is with regards to the information he doles out in this book.
I've read a fair amount of coaches books, and most of them are like business – leadership books. They have a few insights, but they are mostly fluff. You have to read about 200 pages to get a few things that might help you. Cook's book is fairly detailed with regards to the trials and tribulations he's gone through in both his regular life and in his coaching career.
At the beginning, it almost sounds like he's doing a lot of name dropping, but what he's doing is letting you know where he's been and where he has come from.
The concept of "culture" is spread throughout the entire book. Sports fans focus heavily on talent and athleticism, and in Nebraska, we especially focus on "heart". “Team culture” is largely overlooked because most of us are not in the position where we are coaching or managing teams of people. We don’t deal with it, and we certainly don’t understand it, so we dismiss it or diminish its importance.
Keep in mind that the “culture” concept goes beyond sports but is relative to our daily lives whether we are working in business, farming, research, or John Cook's case – winning championships at the University of Nebraska.
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Book Review: Dream Like a Champion by John Cook
By John Forman
February 27, 2018

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(Brendan Sullivan/Omaha World Herald)

There are loads of volleyball books, but there aren’t a lot of books with a biographical and/or historical perspective in the volleyball literature. That’s one of the motivations for theVolleyball Coaching Wizards project. Dream Like a Champion – Wins, Losses, and Leadership the Nebraska Volleyball Way by Brandon Vogel and John Cook adds to that list. It joins Mike Hebert’s books there, adding much-needed depth.
Try not to be jealous
The first thing you may have to get over while reading this book is jealousy. Nebraska volleyball has access to resources most of us could never dream of having. In some ways, the book is a constant reminder of just how well off that program – and others on their level – really is. I’m sure you can get past that, though. 🙂
Fourteen chapters, fourteen topics
The book begins with what is essentially a personal biography from Cook. After that, though, each of the chapters has a different theme. They include things like going deeper on player physical development, understanding how to coach the current generation of college athletes, looking at who you work and surround yourself with, and continuing education and development as a coach.
Cook uses stories to make his case on the different subjects throughout the book. I might argue too many in some cases, but it’s not over the top. I’m sure some folks will enjoy them as they focus on elements of volleyball history at Nebraska. I’m not a part of the Husker universe, but I can appreciate Cook’s perspective on the program’s past.
Some real nuggets
A sure sign of a good book is the number of pages or sections you flag throughout the text. I pulled out several along the way myself. Here’s one of the deeper ones where Cook talks about how his coaching mentality changed over time.
“I coached for a long time like that before realizing that it did not have to be that way. I had a choice to make when I walked into the gym every day: I could coach with love or I could coach with anger. I could be in the moment every day and remember why I wanted to do this in the first place. I could marvel at all of the amazing athletes I was getting to work with and really be grateful for the opportunity we get each season to take a group of players, coaches, and staff and try to make our dreams come true.
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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

How to Make Coaching a True Profession

By John O'Sullivan
March 21, 2018
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USA volleyball coach Karch Kiraly (center) talks with the team during practice May 14, 2018 at the Devaney Sports Center. (Kayla Wolf/Lincoln Journal Star)
“It ain’t what you know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you know that just ain’t true.” – Mark Twain
“What makes you a professional?”
That was the question Dr. Richard Bailey, Head of Research at the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education, posed to me and 250 PGA instructors in Orlando this past January at the PGA Youth and Global Summit.
“Does getting paid to do something make you a professional? I don’t think so,” he continued, as he displayed the image above.
“Does belonging to a professional association of coaches or instructors make you a professional?” he asked. “Can’t we do better than that? Don’t we expect more of our professional doctors and lawyers and accountants than to simply be paid for their work or belong to a trade association?”
“No, being a professional is much more. It means seeking a standard of excellence, constantly improving and incorporating the best knowledge and research in your field in order to get better at what you do every single day. That is what it means to be a professional.”
A lot of heads were nodding in the crowd.
“Then we better get to work,” said Bailey, “because when it comes to coaching across the globe, there are far too many coaches who want to be considered professionals in their field, but have no intention of improving themselves or seeking a standard of excellence. They want to be treated like professionals but have no intention of acting like one. This is what we need to change.”
Amen Dr. B! Amen! (click here to listen to our podcast with Dr. B!)
I am a coach. For the past twenty plus years, coaching has been my profession. Yet for far too long, I didn’t act professionally. I got paid. I joined associations. I took my certifications and licenses. But I didn’t look beyond those things. I didn’t seek out more. I blamed my players for not learning, instead of myself for not properly teaching. And then something remarkable happened.
I had my own children. I realized for the first time in my life that there was something more important than myself. I realized the tremendous trust and responsibility that was placed with me by parents who turned over the physical and emotional well-being of their children to me.
I realized I was letting too many of those kids down. It was time for me to become a true professional coach and not simply a coach who got paid. It changed me forever as a coach. It did not make me perfect – far from it – but every day I try and get better. How?
I think about what I missed at practice today.
When players do not learn something, I look first to where I failed as a teacher before I blame the students.
I look for more effective ways to teach.
I try and be a better listener.
I surround myself with coaches who challenge me and critique how I work.
I read books and research on a daily basis.
Do you?
Our goal at the Changing the Game Project is for all coaches to become more professional in our work. That does not mean we all will get paid, but it does mean they get trained and held to a higher standard. Our work is too important.
This article is for those of us who do get paid. This is for coaches who take a paycheck and work with kids and young adults, either on a full-time or part-time basis. Because I look around and I see a lot of non-professionals out there, and you are doing our profession a huge disservice. You are giving us a bad name. You refuse to attend certification or licensing, and never pick up a book or go watch a true master coach at work. Some of you are scaring families and children into accepting everything you say and do, a deity who controls their playing time, their participation, and their future, promising scholarships and “playing at the next level” without even understanding what that means, or caring how many eggs you break in order to find one that does not crack.
We need a higher standard. Parents must demand it. Good coaches must demand it. Athletes must demand it. And administrators must demand it. So what does that standard look like?
When Dr. Jerry Lynch and I work with college teams, we start with two basic questions:
  1.     What are we doing now that we need to KEEP doing if we want to be successful in the future?
  2.     What do we need to STOP doing that we are doing now if we want to be successful in the future?
These questions seem quite appropriate here. What do we need to keep doing, and what do we need to stop doing, if we want coaching to be a profession?
Click on the link below to read the rest of the article.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Rod Brind'Amour's mandate as Canes coach is simple: It's the culture, stupid

By Luke DeCock
May 9, 2018
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Carolina Hurricanes new head coach Rod Brind’Amour makes remarks during an NHL hockey introductory news conference in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, May 9, 2018. . (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
RALEIGH- At 6 a.m., 14 minutes before sunrise and six hours before the press conference where he was officially introduced as the next head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, only the fifth person to hold that position in the two decades the team has been in North Carolina, Rod Brind'Amour arrived at PNC Arena for his morning workout. He spent the rest of Wednesday morning watching tape before putting on a black suit, white shirt and red tie and stepping into a job he never thought he wanted while a dozen of his former teammates watched from the back of the room.
That timeline says a lot about Brind'Amour, from the workouts that didn't stop when he stopped playing eight years ago to the work ethic he'll expect his players to match, to the long-delayed and surprising realization that coaching was the only thing that could sate his inner competitive fires the way playing once did, to the respect he commanded from the players he captained.
Tom Dundon saw all this when he bought the team, recognized Brind'Amour as someone who could bring the change he quickly saw the Hurricanes desperately needed. To him, as to many if not all fans, Brind'Amour represented the culture he wanted the franchise to have, just as he did as one of the great NHL captains of his generation.
And if Brind'Amour is the right man for the job, it won't take very long to figure out whether Dundon was right nor not. If this is going to work, if Brind'Amour is going to wring every drop of effort and commitment out of this roster, he won't need much time. There's nothing he can do about goaltending right now, but the rest of it, if he's going to get the most out of this team, it's going to happen right away.
This is about culture, not about Xs and Os. Which isn't to say the latter doesn't matter, but the Hurricanes were actually pretty good at both the Xs and the Os under Bill Peters – look no further than their consistently excellent shot totals, Corsi and other measures of possession. Beyond save percentage, they have been lacking in less quantifiable areas: grit, toughness, hustle, accountability, preparation, commitment and, above all, belief.
“My philosophy is much more about culture and leadership and I felt like we had a sure thing,” Dundon said of Brind'Amour. “For sure, we had someone that does it the right way. If we're going to change the culture here, we've got to have someone leading it. We know what he embodies in life is the culture we want for the team.”
That's why Brind'Amour got the job. And if he's going to get through to this group, scour out the complacency, demand accountability and build confidence, it may take him two months to do it, but it won't take two seasons.
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Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/sports/article210771834.html#storylink=cpy

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Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/sports/article210771834.html#storylink=cpy

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Culture Code: Our 2017 Book of the Year (Plus Other Staff Picks)

By John O'Sullivan

December 5, 2017

It’s that time of year again, our final blog where we review our favorite books of 2017. There were some amazing books out there this year, and the choices were tough. This year, we also brought in some staff favorites to add to our master list. Hopefully, you can find a great read for the coach, parent or athlete in your life.

Book of the Year (for Coaches and Leaders)

Many of our readers have read Coyle’s last book –the #1 NYT Bestseller The Talent Code – and his followup is the book we have been waiting for. Coyle dives in to dissect the qualities of the best teams, from the San Antonio Spurs to Navy SEAL Team Six, providing coaches and leaders with the tools to build highly functioning and highly motivated teams. Coyle breaks down how great leaders build safe environments, encourage vulnerability, and establish a common purpose in order to get everyone moving in the same direction. This is the book you have been waiting for when it comes to connecting great stories with ground-breaking research in an entertaining, fast-paced read. While sadly, you will have to wait until January to get a copy (I got an advanced copy) it is worth the pre-order because you want this book the day it comes out!

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Badgers volleyball: Sydney Hilley soaks up leadership lessons from Lauren Carlini, Haleigh Nelson

By Dennis Punzel
November 30, 2017
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Haleigh Nelson and Lauren Carlini (M.P. King/State Journal)
Translation: What would Lauren do? What would Nelly do?
The questions arose a couple weeks ago as University of Wisconsin volleyball coach Kelly Sheffield and his freshman setter Sydney Hilley were watching a video of former UW quarterback Russell Wilson, who was miked up as he talked with his Seattle Seahawks teammates.
Hilley pondered what it would be like if she could’ve listened in like that to her predecessor at setter, Lauren Carlini, or former middle blocker Haleigh Nelson as they talked to their teammates. How did those two celebrated leaders inspire their teammates? What did they say in pressure situations? How did they say it?
Only way to find out is to ask. So the next day they called Carlini in Scandicci, Italy, where she is playing her first season of professional volleyball and the two setters discussed their craft for more than an hour on FaceTime.
The next day Hilley called Nelson in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she is attending grad school and playing beach volleyball for LSU.
“Every minute of it Syd was soaking up knowledge,” said Sheffield, whose main job was to hold the phone during the Carlini conversation. “Learning takes place when there’s a need to know, and Syd needs to know. That’s why she’s the player she is right now. And even more exciting, why she’s going to continue to get better.
“She wants to max out and you’ve got to be willing to put yourself out there if you’re wanting to be great at something. That requires searching out information, searching out people that have been where you want to go.”
Sheffield said that Hilley has been able to put the advice she got to immediate use and teammates have noted a difference in her communication during recent matches. That progression could play a role as the Badgers (20-9) begin NCAA tournament play Friday against in-state rival Marquette (22-9) in Ames, Iowa.
Hilley said she had different goals in each conversation, although communication was a common theme in each.
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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Here’s the Strategy Elite Athletes Follow to Perform at the Highest Level

By Ryan Holiday
November 22, 2017

This piece is an adaption from The Obstacle Is The Way.
This article was originally published 12/17/15.
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Mia Fradenburg (http://goheels.com/)

When coach Shaka Smart was interviewed after his team beat North Carolina in a surprise upset last week, what did he say? He didn’t focus on the buzzer beater. Or the strategy. He said his team won because “they followed the process.
Tony Wroten, a guard for the 76ers, got the same advice from his coaches. “They tell us every game, every day, ‘trust the process.’” John Fox, the coach trying to turn around the Chicago Bears, asked his team the same thing.
But what the hell is it? What is the process?
It can be traced to Nick Saban, the famous coach of LSU and Alabama — perhaps the most dominant dynasty in the history of college football. But he got it from a psychiatry professor named Lionel Rosen during his time at Michigan State.
Rosen’s big insight was this: sports — especially football — are complex. Nobody has enough brainpower or motivation to consistently manage all the variables going on in the course of a season, let alone a game. They think they do — but realistically, they don’t.
There are too many plays, too many players, too many statistics, counter moves, unpredictables, distractions. Over the course of a long playoff season, this adds up into a cognitively impossible load. Meanwhile, as Monte Burke writes in his book Saban, Rosen discovered that the average play in football lasts just seven seconds. Seven seconds — that’s very manageable.
So he posed a question: What if a team concentrated only on what they could manage? What if they took things step by step — not focusing on anything but what was right in front of them and on doing it well?
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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The One Question All Coaches Should Ask Their Athletes

By John O'Sullivan
November 8, 2017
Image result for coach volleyball bill ferguson
Bill Ferguson, Wake Forest Volleyball Coach 
Coaches, imagine if there was a way to gain insight, understanding, and connection with your athletes by asking a simple question? There is. let me explain how.
A few years back, I coached a talented, yet underperforming sixteen-year-old girl I will call Maddy. She was incredibly inconsistent in her play and often looked very depressed. She was definitely lacking in confidence. Her friends told me she was unsure whether to continue playing or not. After trying multiple ways to help her play the way I believed she was capable of, I called her in for a meeting.

I spent the first 30 minutes of our time together offering my thoughts and suggestions, but as I rambled on and on I could tell she was simply tuning out. Here I was, the highly experienced coach, offering my years of wisdom, and she wasn’t listening.
“Maddy, if you don’t start taking my advice, I can’t really help you. I don’t know what else to say,” I shrugged.
“It’s all good stuff coach, but none of that stuff helps me with my problem,” she replied.
“Really?” I exclaimed. “Then perhaps you better tell me what the problem really is, because I clearly am not helping right now.” I waited for her answer.
‘It’s my Dad,” she said. “Whenever you play me on his side of the field, he is constantly telling me what to do, where to be, when to be there, and I can hear him and see him getting angrier and angrier with me. I think I play a lot better when I play on the side where the teams sit, and away from the parents. At least that way I can’t hear him.”
I thought about it for a second, and she was right. She did seem to play better on the team side of the field. I could honor this request, without affecting the team much. “I can help with that Maddy, no problem at all. Why didn’t you ever say something about that before? I can certainly help you with your position, and more importantly, I can go and speak to your Dad. Why did you wait until now to tell me?”
“Because you never asked,” she said stone faced.
My heart sank. She was right. All season long, I watched this girl struggle with her play and her confidence, and all I did was get upset and frustrated with her. I tried to solve the problem, without ever knowing the problem. All I had to do was ask one simple question, but I never did.
“What is one thing you wish your coaches knew that would help us coach you better?”
It is the question that changes everything. Not only for the athletes but for us coaches too.
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